Crisis communications in the digital age
Monday’s Boston Marathon tragedy is yet another example of how online communication allows emergencies and crisis situations to spread much faster and reach many more people than a few years ago.
While speed and ease is a clear benefit of social media in these circumstances, it’s an extraordinary challenge for brands and media outlets to keep up with crisis conversations, let alone stay ahead of the information and provide factual updates.
As professional communicators, we must stick to our tried-and-true tactics in crisis situations – while also tailoring messages to the digital age.
Be prepared to act quickly. Crisis situations are nearly impossible to predict, but having pre-made statements and practicing “fire drills” will cut time and inconsistencies if (or when) such an event occurs.
- Traditional tactic: Identify a spokesperson and prepare media statements.
- Digital age response: Plan social media posts and prepare your company’s online newsroom to release crisis updates on the fly.
Tell your internal teams first. Employees should be the first audience you update during a crisis situation. These are your best advocates, and it’s necessary they feel informed about issues before the media.
- Traditional tactic: Host in-person meetings, make phone calls and update employees via email.
- Digital age response: Release a company-wide update through internal social media channels, online newsletters and intranet systems.
Stay honest. Any and all communications to internal and external audiences should be as honest as possible. Admit any faults made by your brand, and provide next steps on how you’re resolving the issue.
If you’re a crisis communications professional, how do you harness social media and other online channels for your messages? How do you think these situations are affected when brands choose to ignore new media outlets?